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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kommersant Journalists Told Berezovsky Not Paper's Buyer

Journalists at the Kommersant newspaper gearing up for a hostile takeover were encouraged Friday when they were told that it was not business tycoon Boris Berezovsky who had bought a controlling share in the publishing house, but a foreign businessman.

However, the identity of the new owner and whose interests he represents might only become clear next week, when Kommersant makes a formal announcement in its Tuesday edition.

Kommersant editor in chief Raf Shakirov announced at a meeting Friday that the paper had been sold to a U.S. company owned by a British subject of Iranian origin, according to foreign editor Azer Mursaliev.

Speculation about a potential sale of Russia's leading business newspaper to Berezovsky or his rival, Anatoly Chubais, have permeated the media in the past months. Journalists hoping to preserve the paper's editorial independence wanted to believe one rumor in particular, which has the controlling share going to a Western publisher.

But this scenario is unlikely, according to Larisa Zelkova, a specialist in media investment.

"[It is] hard to believe that any U.S. company would buy Kommersant, which is in such a dire financial state," Zelkova said, adding that the company is believed to be about $20 million debt. "It can only be bought by Russians to buy political influence."